Michael decides to fill Toby’s shoes as chief mediator for a day, which, as it turns out, is just enough time for him to decimate the morale of his troops. His destructive influence is inescapable as deep rifts are opened in every imaginable direction. The disastrous affair leaves the office in tatters, casting even the strongest of friendships to an uncertain fate.
Successfully handling staff conflicts requires a delicate touch that Michael simply doesn’t possess.
Michael : Ok, the first style is lose-lose.
Oscar : What’s the next one?
Michael : Just hold on, please. Ok, if we do lose-lose, neither of you gets what you want. Do you understand? You… you would both lose. Now, I need to ask you: do you want to pursue a lose-lose negotiation?
Michael get points for thoroughness, though insulting the intelligences of both parties isn’t normally part of the plan.
Angela : Can we just skip to whatever number five is? Win-win or whatever?
Michael : Win-win is number four, and number five is win-win-win. The important difference here is with win-win-win, we all win. Me, too. I win for having successfully mediated a conflict at work.
Something tells me the most important win for Michael in there is the third one.
Michael : Are those all the other complaints?
Toby : Mm-hmm.
Michael : I would like to see those, please.
Toby : I–I can’t do that.
Michael : You can’t do that, huh? Huh, ok, now you and I have a conflict. I order you to give me that file.
Toby : That–nn– [Places his hand over the file to protect it]
Michael : Ok.
[There is a struggle as Michael yanks the papers away from Toby]
Michael : There! No more conflict. I had to use win-lose on that. It was not pretty.
Michael defaults to the win-lose approach whenever Toby is involved.
There is a basic human trait called not-being-a-jackass, and Dwight displayed tonight that he will have absolutely nothing to do with it.
[Phyllis is getting ready to have her photo taken]
Phyllis : Uh, on or off?
Photographer : Off.
Phyllis : Ok. [Removes her glasses]
Dwight : Oh! What is on your face? Is that a disguise?
Phyllis : Excuse me. [Leaves the room]
Dwight : Clown paint.
One day, Phyllis will decide that enough is enough, and people like Michael and Dwight will have no choice but to experience furious vengeance by her passive-aggressive hands.
Dwight : I.D. badges are long overdue. Security in this office park is a joke. Last year I came to work with my spud gun in a duffel bag. I sat at my desk all day with a rifle that shoots potatoes at 60 pounds per square inch. Can you imagine if I was deranged?
I think I might, actually. This begs the question: why did he bring a spud gun to the office in the first place? Was he planning on catching Jim off guard with his gigantic potato firearm?
[Dwight is preparing to have his photo taken]
Photographer : Smile.
Dwight : No.
[Cut to interview]
Dwight : I never smile if I can help it. Showing one’s teeth is a submission signal in primates. When someone smiles at me, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for its life.
I’d like to see Dwight put this theory to the test against a silverback gorilla.
The last couple of episodes have really given us an oppotunity to explore Jim’s character.
Jim : Dwight tried to kiss me.
Michael : What?
Jim : And I didn’t tell anyone, ’cause I’m not really sure how I feel about it.
Dwight : That is not true. Redact it. Redact it!
Jim : Well, I’m not actually making a formal complaint. I just really think we should talk about it.
The Dwight/Jim romance is the dark horse of office romances on this show.
Michael [Reading Dwight’s complaints] : “Someone replaced all my pens and pencils with crayons. I suspect Jim Halpert. Everyone has called me Dwayne all day. I think Jim Halpert paid them to.”
Jim : [Nods to the camera]
[Cut to interview]
Jim : [Laughs] Yes, five bucks each, and it was totally worth it.
Assuming I had a top five list of Office episodes, Conflict Resolution would almost certainly have a place in it, in no small part due to the brilliance of this minute-long scene spliced with Jim’s personal recollections. This sequence starts off as one thing and then transforms into something completely different by the time we’ve reached the conclusion.
Michael [Reading Dwight’s complaints] : “This morning, I knocked myself in the head with the phone.”
[Cut to interview]
Jim : That actually took a while. I had to put, uh, more and more nickels into his handset, till he got used to the weight, and then I just… took ‘em all out.
[Cut back to Michael, still reading Dwight’s complaints]
Michael : “Every time I typed my name it said Diapers.”
[Cut to interview]
Jim : Just a simple macro. You know, these actually don’t sound that funny one after another. But he does deserve it, though.
As rewarding as it may be, playing Dwight’s tormentor isn’t exactly the best use of Jim’s time, and Jim knows it. He ridicules Dwight for allowing petty rules and power-plays to govern his life, but deep down inside, he realizes that his days spent planning office pranks are just as unimpressive. Funny, yes, but the stuff of hopes and dreams they are not.
Michael [Reading Dwight’s complaints] : “By the end of the day, my desk was about two feet closer to the copier.”
[Cut to interview]
Jim : Yeah, I just moved it an inch every time he went to the bathroom. And that’s how I spent my entire day that day.
[The camera lingers on Jim for an extended moment]
Jim is a confident guy, but the truth cuts him. If there was anything positive to be gained from Michael’s failed experiment, it’s that it may have driven Jim to seek greater things for himself. I’m not suggesting that we put an end to the hijinx, but the show does need to maintain the authenticity that has sustained it for so long, and in order to do that, Jim needs to develop as a character.
This scene is a microcosm of what makes this show so great: it’s hilarious at one end and brutally honest at the other. The writers and actors consistently strike a perfect balance between the two.
After a couple weeks with no mention of the big day, we see that the wedding preparations are back in full force during Conflict Resolution.
Phyllis : So I got the Save The Date.
Pam : Yeah?
Phyllis : Yeah, pretty stationery.
Pam : Oh, thanks.
Angela : I didn’t get mine yet.
Pam : Um…
[Cut to interview]
Pam : There are a few people I decided not to invite, and that might make things kind of awkward, but… it’s my wedding. And I don’t want anyone there who has called me a hussy.
I wonder what sort of circumstances led to that particular insult. Hussy isn’t the sort of word you use without good reason. Then again, this is the same woman who believes the color green to be whorish.
Pam : I have this kind of big secret about Angela. And I’ve been really nice to her, and I haven’t told anyone, and… what the hell?!
Scenes like this, expressing the friction between Pam and Angela, often throw me for a loop. I find that I have a difficult time separating Pam and Angela (Martin) from Jenna and Angela (Kinsey). I’m sure this has plenty to do with the well-documented friendship that Jenna and Angela share in real life.
I expected Conflict Resolution to shake things up on the Jim/Pam front given its place on the Office timeline, and it did not disappoint.
Pam : Did anyone have a problem with me?
Michael : Alright, Pamela. Come on down! Let’s do it.
Pam : [Leaves her desk to stand by Michael]
Michael : And…ok. Just one… complaint. Actually, it has been withdrawn, so that is no help to us. Next.
Pam : Wait, what did it say?
Michael : Uh, “Does she have to plan her wedding on office time? Shouldn’t she do that at home?”
Pam : [Looks at Angela incredulously]
I had a hunch that Jim was the culprit once Michael started reading the complaint, though I’m guessing that I wasn’t alone on that prediction.
Pam : I can’t believe Angela. I went against my better judgment, and I gave her a Save The Date. And now it turns out she complained about me to Toby.
Jim : Well, it was redacted. Look, if she wants an invite, maybe she’s just trying to be friends.
Pam : Don’t take her side.
Jim : Well, what does Roy think about everything?
Pam : I don’t know. I try not to bother him about this kind of stuff.
Jim : You mean like your thoughts and feelings?
Pam : Yeah.
To his credit, I hold Jim to a high and possibly unreasonable moral standard, so this scene surprised me a little. I was expecting to see some sort of disclosure, perhaps not a full-blown confession, but at least an indication that he was withholding the truth. Maybe an attempt to divert blame away from Angela, though not necessarily to himself, but we see nothing of the sort.
I considered the possibility that Pam was correct in suspecting Angela, but then I rewatched her reaction to Pam’s accusations, and I dismissed that thought almost immediately. Lying isn’t something Angela does particularly well, and it was pretty clear from her rebuttal that she wasn’t making any attempt to hide the truth.
[Everyone is getting ready to take a group picture, grudgingly] Pam : Angela, I want to talk to you about something.
Angela : What?
Jim : No, Pam–
Pam : I am. It’s about the Save The Date–
Jim : Pam, it wasn’t her.
Pam : What?
Jim : I’m the one who complained about you. I didn’t know that Toby was gonna write it down. I was just venting. You know, it was one day. And I took it right back. It was like…
Pam : Ok.
Allowing Pam to harbor an extra bit of resentment towards Angela was something Jim could live with, but allowing Pam to revoke Angela’s wedding invitation, an act that probably would have damaged their already tenuous relationship beyond repair, was an unacceptable loss.
As for Pam’s reaction, I’d hesitate to classify it as anger. Disappointment would be the more appropriate term, although it still doesn’t get at exactly what I’m trying to communicate. Pam knows that the wedding bothers Jim, and at this point, at some level in her understandably tangled subconscious, she must know why. Somewhere in there, she’s considered all of the evidence and reached the conclusion that Jim is still in love with her. I am sure of it. Being sure of anything never counted for so little, though, and it’s still not enough to dissuade her from having this wedding.
Her disappointment in this scene stems from the fact that Jim went to Toby rather than to her. There is a public expectation that they should be truthful to one another as friends, but also a private, unspoken agreement (that neither will admit to) to keep their feelings for one another concealed, an arrangement that proves to be incredibly complicated when the former threatens to compromise the latter. Had Jim decided to take his complaint directly to her, there’s no guarantee that it would have ended smoothly either, though I can’t help but guess at the chances of a positive outcome. The two of them have been dancing around each other for so long, I wonder if a direct confrontation at this moment in time would have generated the necessary force to knock this wedding off its rails.
For all of the difficulty I’m having in reading the situation, this much is clear: after a couple weeks of strong progress, the JP Index experiences a precipitous drop tonight. Conflict Resolution rates a Down.
Creed wins this one easily for delivering his greatest line yet.
[Michael is sitting with Ryan and Creed in the conference room]
Michael : Ok, Ryan, you told Toby that Creed has a distinct old man smell?
Ryan : [Looks away, embarrassed]
Creed : [Smiles, smugly]
[Cut to interview]
Creed : I know exactly what he’s talking about. I sprout mung beans on a damp paper towel in my desk drawer. Very nutritious, but they smell like death.
Death and Creed are one and the same.
Jim takes it for the second week in a row. What can I say, he’s the hero of the story.
Jim : Yeah. I mean, it’s inevitable. I definitely overhear some wedding preparation, but I’m fine with it. She hears me arranging my social life, and we both have to hear Dwight order deer urine over the Internet, so it evens out.
The applications of deer urine are unknown to me, though I would imagine that it’s less helpful to romantics than other deer components.
Michael : That’s a nice tie.
Ryan : Thank you.
[Michael approaches Ryan and leans in closely as he examines the tie]
Michael : That is… who makes that?
Ryan : Um, I don’t–
Michael : Do you mind if I wear that for the photo?
Ryan : Um, let’s, um… let’s keep our clothes.
Ryan knew exactly where this conversation was going the moment Michael asked him about his tie.
Oscar : It’s like child abuse! I say if Jesus saw that, he’d freak out! He’d freak out, Toby. I mean, on so many levels.
The Jesus freak-out factor, otherwise known as the universal indicator of appropriateness.
Toby : Here’s how I usually handle this. All I do is listen. You know, these things just have a way of working themselves out. It’s-it’s like if you write someone a letter when you’re really angry. They say to keep it in your drawer for a couple days, and then you just never end up sending it.
Michael : What do you know about conflict resolution? Your answer to everything is to get divorced, so–
Toby : Ok.
Michael : Ok, what?
Toby : That was a right decision for me and my marriage.
Michael : Well, that’s not gonna fly here because in this office, it is till death do us part, assuming that we don’t get downsized.
I guess we really shouldn’t be suprised anymore.
[Michael, Pam, Oscar, and Angela are gathered by Angela’s baby poster]
Angela : I got this poster for Christmas, and I feel I want to see it every day. It makes me feel like the babies are the true artists, and God has a really cute sense of humor.
Michael : Come on, seriously. That?
Oscar : I don’t like looking at it. It’s creepy and in bad taste, and it’s just offensive to me. It makes me think of the horrible, frigid stage mothers who forced the babies into it. It’s kitsch. It’s the opposite of art. It destroys art. It destroys souls. This is so much more offensive to me than hardcore porno.
I’ll admit to being slightly weirded out by Angela’s poster, but there must be a story behind this for Oscar to get so riled up.
Pam : Hey, Angela. I didn’t have your zip code. [Hands Angela an invitation]
Angela : Oh, thanks.
[Cut to interview]
Angela : It was hand-delivered, but I did get a Save The Date after all. It’s not my taste.
Finally, we get Roy’s last name! Anderson it is.
Michael : Creed is sick of looking at the redhead all day and wants a seat facing the receptionist.
Pam : Nice.
I wonder if Creed actually knows the names of any of the people he works with. Is it his perpetual drug-induced haze that prevents him remembering their names, or does he simply deem them to be inconsequential details in the grand, Creed-sized scale of things?
Michael : Here is a Kelly complaint: “Ryan never returns my calls.” Ah. Join the club.
Ryan : My voice mail’s real spotty… sometimes.
Kelly : I didn’t file a complaint. I was just talking–
Toby : To your HR representative.
Kelly : To my friend, I thought. I want that withdrawn.
Toby [Sarcastically] : Fine, I’ll take your name off… so no one will know.
You’ve got Michael waiting for you at one end and Kelly at the other; that is not an enviable position.
Michael : Someone complained that the men’s room is whites only. Stanley, you know that’s not true.
Stanley : I didn’t say that.
Creed : Then why is there a picture of a white man on the door?
The intrigue surrounding Creed gets thicker and thicker with each passing week.
Michael : Ok, Phyllis. You complained that Angela is giving you dirty looks, and you tried to get off the party planning committee.
Phyllis : No, I never said any such thing. Angela and I are close.
Michael : And… also, Phyllis, Stanley says that you cry too much, and that bugs him.
Phyllis : Stanley and I are close, too.
Stanley : We sit close.
Poor Phyllis, getting a raw deal from everyone.
[Michael is sitting with Kevin and Angela in the conference room]
Michael : Alright, Kevin, you are accused of making sexually suggestive remarks to Angela that made her feel uncomfortable. Solution: Angela, you are to make sexually suggestive remarks to Kevin that will make him uncomfortable.
Kevin : I accept your decision.
Angela : [Gives a look of disgust]
So, now we’re doing an eye for an eye? Whatever happened to win-win-win?
Dwight : Four years of malfeasance unreported. This cannot stand.
Michael : Ok, calm down.
Dwight : No, you calm down! Whose side is Toby on? Whose side are you on?!
Michael : Hey, hey!
Dwight : Him or me? Him or me? I cannot work with Jim anymore.
Michael : Ok.
Dwight : Either he goes, or I go.
Michael : Dwight–
Dwight : You choose!
Michael : Stop–
Dwight : One of us is out of here by the end of today. [Takes his file of complaints and storms out of the office]
Michael : Ok.
I will forever associate the word “malfeasance” with Dwight.
Michael [Reading Dwight’s complaints] : “This morning I found a bloody glove in my desk drawer, and Jim Halpert tried to convince me I committed murder. I think he may be the real murderer. Jim Halpert said there was an abandoned infant in the women’s room. When I went to save the child, I saw Meredith on the can.”
Michael : Gad.
So, either Meredith likes to go to the bathroom with the door open, or Dwight has no problem kicking down stalls in the women’s room. Despite Meredith’s previous history, I’m going to have to go with the latter.
Michael : And that is why the idea of a cage match is so universally appealing. But here’s the thing about cage matches. Sometimes you have to open the cage, and that is something that Toby will never understand.
And neither will anyone else for that matter.